CHRIS KNIGHT M/CS
Need some tasty bits for your café racer? This Leicestershire-based set-up specialises in quality stuff to trick up your Triton and make you look the part
Quality wares and tasty delights at the Leicestershire specialist
Ilike quality – things have to feel right and details make all the difference,” says Anne Knight. It’s an admirable statement of intent from the woman who founded Chris Knight Motorcycles in 2000, a year after her husband Chris died suddenly from a heart condition when he was only 51.
“He was a passionate motorcyclist,” she says. “He used to build engines and gearboxes for people and was into specials like Tritons and Rob North Tridents.” Once she recovered from the shock, Anne decided to leave her job in sales and marketing to move into the world Chris had inhabited. She set up as a stockist of classic Norton and Triumph parts, specialising in Meriden’s post-1970 oil-in-frame twins. Selling mainly by mail order, she also spends many weekends away from her Leicestershire base at shows and autojumbles.
“In recent years, the emphasis has changed,” Anne explains. “I can’t compete with ebay and China, so I am now concentrating on high-quality café racer parts.” She trawled autojumbles for period Eddie Dow, Dunstall, Gus Kuhn, Ian Kennedy and John Tickle aftermarket equipment and cleared a leading wholesaler’s stock of Tommaselli controls. She also tracked down sources for newly-manufactured parts, focusing on products that she could see were in demand for building or refurbishing classic Tritons. That is presently the core of her business, with quality to the fore. Anne says she has declined some offers to make parts for her on this basis. Chris Knight had been a friend of Dave Degens and Anne has since formed a business liaison with the Tritonbuilding legend of Dresda Autos.
“That was fortunate as I have been able to include the Dresda range of products and I can order sets of engine plates or Dresda swingarms from Dave,” Anne says. “He can help customers with the internal parts, which I don’t claim to deal with.”
While Anne has plans to diversify, the present focus is on Tritons which can involve several permutations of frames, engines and gearboxes. This can be baffling for anyone new to Triton lore, but Anne is grateful that most of her customers are knowledgeable, or do some research before ordering.
“I don’t call anything ‘universal’,” she says. “Like shoes, it will either fit or it won’t and I don’t like returns – they are expensive.” Both Wideline and post1959 Slimline Featherbed frames are catered for. Alloy fuel and oil tanks are made for her by specialists and she aims to offer an off-the-shelf service rather than building up waiting lists. However, while she stocks the ‘short circuit’ (approximately 3½-gallon) Norton Manx-style fuel tank (£695 plus postage), the less in-demand deeper five-gallon type is made to order. Twin taps are fitted, providing a practical reserve unlike the Manx single tap, while flip-up Monza caps are set to the right side, for filling while on the propstand.
While Anne is able to maintain a stock of Wideline alloy central oil tanks, the Slimline tank (with its much more elaborate shape) is not always readily available. She has some secondhand glassfibre oil tanks which are resilient, if not as classy as alloy. Seasoned Tritonists will tell you how engine vibration can split alloy components if they are not rubber-mounted. Anne
‘THE PRESENT FOCUS IS ON TRITONS, BUT ANNE PLANS TO DIVERSIFY’
only sells stainless steel battery trays because she has found that alloy items are not up to the job.
Racer-style seats are made with or without the front cutaway for access to a central oil-tank filler cap. Clipon handlebars are available new and Anne also has some period items, including a pair of John Tickle bars she found in their box and wrapped in 1972 newspaper. A swan-neck type caters for riders who don’t want to affect an extreme racing posture: “It’s an age thing,” says Anne, who is aware that many of her customers are 50-plus. Rearset footrest kits feature machined billet aluminium, as do finned exhaust clamping rings, as she thinks the cast type often look ugly.
Norton Manx-inspired conical rear hubs from BSA and Triumph twins of 1971-1974 vintage are popular with Triton builders, so Anne has them refurbished with either a polished alloy finish or the matt-black used on magnesium Manx items. With finned alloy brakecooling rings and air vents added for a racier look, both types are £690. The gauze protecting the vents is authentically ‘mushroomed’ with a convex shape. Making Manx-style mudguards in strong Duralumin like the originals (£135 a pair) and front guard Y-brackets with compound curves formed on special tooling are examples of choosing quality over cheapness. Strong safety-critical brake torque arms can be supplied for Norton forks to mate with Suzuki or Grimeca double twin-leading-shoe drums. Nearly everything is UK made and Anne never claims to offer the lowest prices.
“A lot of my stuff goes abroad, to America, Japan, Australia or Scandinavia and as I speak French I am on friendly terms with the Triton Club of France,” Anne says. “But I find that Brits tend to want their stuff shiny and cheap. I’d be richer if I sold lower quality stuff; it’s easier to get and the margins are better. Did you know that you can get brand new ‘John Tickle’ parts that are made in the Far East? If we don’t use skills in this country, we’ll lose them.” Anne wants to attract new customers, which is why she is now moving into new ventures to cater for a fresh generation of café racers.
“Tritons are going up in value, creating a price barrier for younger riders, so I am looking at more affordable options like the Hinckley Bonneville and BMW K100. For a start, I have Monza tank caps for Hinckley bikes and will be doing seats. I have to move with the times.” chris-knight-mcs.co.uk (add VAT to quoted prices)
‘TRITONS ARE GOING UP IN VALUE, SO I AM LOOKING AT MORE AFFORDABLE OPTIONS LIKE HINCKLEY BONNIES AND BMW K100S’
ABOVE: Along with other suppliers, Anne has struck up a business link with Dresda’s Dave Degens
Manx-style mudguards are made in strong Duralumin
Refurbished conical hubs come in black or chrome
Everyday necessities like gaskets are also stocked
Shapes and colours... Anne can supply seats in a wide variety of them
Yokes, brake torque arms, headlight brackets, you name it – and all top quality
Anne’s rearset kits and exhaust clamp rings come in machined billet aluminium